Junior Officer Appreciation Weekend: A Tale of Competitive Nodes
This is a tale about Star Trek Online but as competitive nodes are a common game mechanic in numerous MMORPGs, it is pertinent to many gamers. From today till Monday 5th June, it’s Junior Officer Appreciation Weekend, an in-game event that allows players to earn a rare duty officer. Strange particles can be found around the grounds of Starfleet Academy. If these are scanned with a tricorder, they either disappear, become stable or summon a combat hologram that attacks you. The particles then drop fragments that can be exchanged for event rewards. Collecting the particles is fun but hardly anything groundbreaking. I’m sure that most MMOs have a comparable activity.
However, the particles that appear during this event are competitive nodes. Despite fairly generous respawn rates, due to the volume of players in the vicinity, getting to the particles in time to scan and claim them becomes a race. And like any game mechanic that forces players to directly compete with each other, there is scope for rancor and unpleasantness. It took me all of twenty minutes tonight, before I ran into my first ill-tempered player who seemed to think that whatever they saw was immediately theirs. This particular individual after losing out on a particle to me, decided to follow me around for the next ten minutes to try and “avenge” himself upon me, for the heinous outrage I had perpetrated against them. Zone chat also revealed several players arguing over similar incidents.
Now I tend not to rush through events such as these, preferring to go about them at a steady pace. If I spot a particle that is available, I try to ensure that there isn’t a crowd of other players heading towards it. If it does end up in a race, I tend to let the matter go and allow the other party to claim the item. The advancing years have taught me a degree of patience that others seem to lack. However, I don’t concede every race and will compete for a particle, if the fancy takes me. Yet, this entire situation could be avoided if Cryptic simply did away with the competitive node mechanic. In fact, it’s something I’d like to see go from the entire MMORPG genre. ArenaNet have eliminated it from Guild Wars 2 and it is a massive “quality of life” improvement for the game.
Over the last decade, I have gone from being an ardent opponent of egregious behaviour in online games, to just accepting the fact that any gathering of humans will include a tangible percentage of idiots, malcontents and trolls. Developers habitually demonstrate that they have no real interest in dealing with this problems through community policing but some do sometimes use game mechanics as a means to limit shenanigans, tomfoolery and general douchbaggery. Changing competitive nodes to shared one, is a prime example of this. It eliminates a potential avenue for griefing and general bad behaviour. Sure, you can argue that making such a change is allowing a small percentage of players to dictate policy but frankly it’s a small price to pay for a change that inherently improves players in-game experience and overall perception of the community.